Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on their opinion page (yeah, boo, crap so runny and putrid you can’t even get rid of it with a shovel, I know) that claims biologists have been actively inflating species numbers as a cheap ploy to gain better support for conservation efforts. I really can’t rebut that any better than Loren Coleman does here:
What is occurring is a classic theoretical battle between lumpers and splitters, not a fight of conservationists vs non-conservationists, not a war of Greens vs non-Greens, although “Species Inflation May Infect Over-Eager Conservationists” appears eager to convince you of that. The splitters are making their points lately, with more scientific evidence for a diversity of species.
“Species” are not like “dollars”—they are far more fluid, and to the biologist, there is no way to rank the value of a beetle against a monkey. This is a classic case of concepts in one discipline being applied in a grossly inappropriate manner to the concepts of another.
I’ll also add that, while it may not be true of some groups that focus on charismatic furry beasts to win popular support, among the scientists who do the work of taxonomy, I don’t see the individual species being used as the coinage of environmental conservation. I see much more focus on habitat preservation, which is really where the action is at if you want to save species.
Ah, but the WSJ editorial page is more likely the province of baraminologists than credible authorities.